Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company Alumni Advance at New York City Ballet and More
Six alumni of Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania are advancing in dance companies and conservatories across America, including New York City Ballet (NYCB), Pacific Northwest Ballet, Philadanco, Cincinnati Ballet, and Colorado Ballet.
In his review of the prestigious School of American Ballet (SAB) 2017 Workshop Performance, Observer dance critic Robert Gottlieb wrote (June 14, 2017), "The next generation of City Ballet stars are on the way." The Philadelphia region's own Darius Black (age 18, from Voorhees, NJ) may be one of those future stars, as he was one of only eight new apprentices announced by NYCB/SAB Artistic Director Peter Martins immediately following the annual SAB student performances. New York City Ballet, founded by renowned choreographer George Balanchine in 1948, is considered one of the world's best ballet companies.
Mr. Black is an alumnus of Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company, where he began ballet at age eight in the school's renowned Boys' Scholarship Program; he trained there for six years before earning a full merit scholarship to SAB at age 14. At Metropolitan, studying under founder and Artistic Director Lisa Collins Vidnovic, as well as distinguished faculty including William DeGregory, Alexander Iziliaev, Andrew Pap, and other dance artists, Mr. Black also gained performance experience as a member of Metropolitan Ballet Company. While numerous Metropolitan students have earned scholarships to study at prestigious companies, and many alumni perform professionally in the U.S. and abroad, Mr. Black is the first Metropolitan Ballet student to earn a coveted position as an NYCB apprentice.
Metropolitan Ballet Alumni across America
Metropolitan Ballet alumna Melissa Gelfin (age 24, from Philadelphia, PA) was recently promoted to senior soloist at Cincinnati Ballet, which she joined in 2014. Ms. Gelfin entered Metropolitan Ballet's creative dance program at age three, and studied ballet at the studio for 11 years, later training at New York's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre (ABT), where in 2009 she earned a National Training Scholarship with ABT. She performed with Orlando Ballet for four years and was a 2014 finalist at the world-famous USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2015 Ms. Gelfin also danced in Cincinnati Opera's production of Turandot.
Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan (age 20, from Philadelphia, PA) was promoted in 2017 to the corps de ballet at Pacific Northwest Ballet, which she joined as an apprentice in 2016. Ms. Ryan studied at Metropolitan Ballet Academy from 2008-2010 and is a former member of Metropolitan Ballet Company. She has attended Metropolitan's acclaimed Summer Intensive program classes throughout her pre-professional training years to present, in addition to summer programs at SAB, San Francisco Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet. Prior to joining Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ms. Ryan was a member of Pennsylvania Ballet II.
Marissa Kaufmann (age 22, from Dresher, PA), who started studying ballet at Metropolitan Ballet Academy at age 4, joined Danco2 (D2), the Apprentice Company of PHILADANCO, The Philadelphia Dance Company, effective July 10, 2017. Ms. Kaufmann trained at Metropolitan for eight years before pursuing advanced training in modern dance. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from Towson University in May 2017, and has danced with Vaught Contemporary Ballet in Baltimore, Maryland, and at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. In August 2017, Ms. Kaufmann performed with Project Moshen in Koresh Dance Company's Come Together Dance Festival, which also featured a work she choreographed.
Sara VanderVoort (age 23, from Feasterville, PA) was recently promoted to apprentice at Colorado Ballet, where another Metropolitan Ballet alum-Ariel Breitman (from Huntingdon Valley, PA)-has danced since 2014. Ms. VanderVoort began her ballet training at Metropolitan Ballet Academy at age 12, studying under the direction of Lisa Collins Vidnovic, Natalya Zeiger, and Denise D'Angelo. During her six years at the studio, Ms. VanderVoort performed the role of "Hot Chocolate/Spanish" in Pennsylvania Ballet's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, and competed in Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) and Regional Dance America, where she won several full scholarships to summer programs, including BalletX, Washington Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet. She joined Colorado Ballet's Studio Company in 2012, then danced with Nashville Ballet before returning to Colorado Ballet in 2015. "I am thrilled to begin my first season as a company member of Colorado Ballet," she says.
Tyler Diggs (age 16, from Holland, PA), who began training in 2009 as a member of Metropolitan Ballet's Boys' Scholarship Program, has been accepted with scholarship to The Harid Conservatory for 2017-18. In January 2017 Mr. Diggs placed in the Top 12 for both Classical and Contemporary Soloist at the YAGP Boston Regional Semi-Final, and in the 2016 YAGP Philadelphia Regional Semi-Final, he earned Second Place in the Junior Men's Classical Competition. He previously earned scholarships to attend summer programs at Orlando Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. Mr. Diggs will attend the prestigious Harid program in Boca Raton, Florida, this year, and earlier this year created a GoFundMe fundraising website to help him pursue his dream of becoming a professional dancer.
On his website, Mr. Diggs says, "I've been studying ballet at Metropolitan Ballet Academy since I was 7 years old, and I've loved every minute of it. The financial help that MBA has provided has been so helpful in getting me to where I am now, and I'm hoping to move forward in my pursuit of a dance career. Dancing gives me such an amazing feeling of elation and joy, and I really want to be able to experience and share it with others for as long as I can. Between all the stressful aspects of life, like school and financial issues, dance is one of the few things that allows me to escape all of these worries and really express myself in a way that's impossible by any other means. It's become such a big part of who I am today, and I have no idea who I'd be without it...."
"The Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company community is immensely proud of all of our alumni, who have worked so hard to achieve these very significant accomplishments in the highly competitive dance world," says founder and Artistic Director Lisa Collins Vidnovic. "Our esteemed faculty works very closely with all our students, because I believe classical training is a framework for excellence that can help all children succeed in their pursuits, both in and out of the studio.
Metropolitan Ballet students who wish to pursue a dance career are guided through the challenging maze of training, ballet competitions and performance opportunities, and prepared to excel in any studio or on any stage. Now in our 22nd year, Metropolitan has alumni performing in the U.S. from coast to coast and also abroad. Dance company directors know that Metropolitan Ballet produces dancers who perform with the confidence and joy that comes from experience and the highest qualitiy training."
About Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company
Founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Lisa Collins Vidnovic, Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company is a nationally recognized school of classical ballet offering classes for all ages and levels, including children's creative dance, ballet lessons for Beginners through Pre-Professional dance levels, an acclaimed Boys' Scholarship Dance Program, and adult classes. Acclaimed for "cultivating top talent," the studio promotes a positive, nurturing atmosphere in which students receive personalized attention and encouragement from a dedicated and celebrated faculty. Its affiliated, nonprofit Metropolitan Ballet Company provides scholarships and performance training that emphasizes student involvement in the creative process and produces remarkable results, as seen in Metropolitan's many notable alumni accomplishments. Learn more at 215.663.1665 or www.metropolitanballetacademy.com.
Darius Black (left, in white), Mary Thomas MacKinnon and Roman Mejia in Hallelujah Junction, School of American Ballet Workshop Performance, New York City, June 3-5, 2017; photo © Paul Kolnik.